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Here in New York, industrial development agencies (IDAs) are one of main job creation mechanisms for local communities.In 2009, IDAs gave away close to half a billion dollars in tax breaks to companies in the name of economic development.IDAs are known as "public benefit corporations" - they're supposed to help their local communities, and create jobs.But in their four decades of existence, they've been accused of everything from failing to comply with state laws, to simply being inefficient.You can follow the Innovation Trail's investigation into how IDAs spend your tax dollars by subscribing to the RSS feed on the right.

DiNapoli: IDAs not delivering on job creation promises

Matt Ryan
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says "taxpayers are not getting enough bang for their buck when it comes to IDAs."

More tax breaks does not equal more jobs.

That's according to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's latest report on New York's industrial development agencies (IDAs).

In his fifth report on IDAs [PDF], DiNapoli says the number of jobs created by the local economic development engines dropped by 22,000 from the year before.

DiNapoli also cites a $483 million gap in what IDAs gave out in tax breaks and how much they took in via payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOTs).

That breaks down, the report finds, to a $2,659 cost per job - up 9 percent from the year before.

"Taxpayers are not getting enough bang for their buck when it comes to IDAs," DiNapoli said in a statement.

Further complicating things, according to Deputy Comptroller Steve Hancox, is a lack of accountability surrounding the number of jobs IDAs claim to create or retain.

"The evidence presented is not clear that the cost of these various economic development activities equates to the benefits," Hancox told the Innovation Trail.

Hancox also says IDAs do a poor job reporting their data. Most IDAs don't independently verify the number of jobs created from supported projects, according to Hancox. Instead, IDAs often rely on what they're told by the company.

"Phenomenal" results

Proponents of IDAs interpret the conclusions of the comptroller's report a little differently.

"That is a phenomenal cost-to-job creation number," disputes Brian McMahon, director of the New York State Economic Development Council, a group representing IDAs.

The report points out some good things about IDAs and job creation efforts, McMahon argues. He says some of the conclusions it reaches are "not valid."

The comptroller's office recently reintroduced legislation it says would improve IDA accountability.

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail
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